Rescuing the Rescuers!

Preparing for this year’s Armed Forces exhibition I came across this story about the Air Sea Rescue Helicopter from RAF Chivenor whose crew had a lucky escape…

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Waving boys saw sudden blue flash

Four schoolboys waved to a passing helicopter above Bideford Bridge on Tuesday night, and in the same second there was a vivid blue flash. In front of their eyes the aircraft somersaulted and plunged 50 feet through the air into the River Torridge.

For the four-man crew of the R.A.F.Whirlwind Mark 10, themselves responsible for saving several lives along the North Devon Coast this summer, it was an amazing escape from death.

The aircraft, its tail completely severed by a 33,000-volt electricity cable, came to rest almost submerged in ten feet of water. But its door was facing upwards and one by one the crew scrambled clear.

As two policemen and a fisherman waded into the water to help them to the river bank near Little America hundreds of sightseers converged on the area, drawn by the flash which lit Bideford.

 

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A second helicopter, piloted by the Chivenor helicopter unit commanding officer, Flight-Lieut. Bob Jones, picked up the badly-shaken crew – Pilot Flight-Lieut. Roger Wain, Master Navigator Gerry Perrell, Master Signaller Dennis Gibson and Junior Technician Ralph Kadby – and flew them back to the aerodrome.

Back in their crewroom, where hot coffee was awaiting them, it was discovered that the most serious injury was merely a bruised eye. All four were on duty again yesterday. But, said Flight-Lieut. Wain: “I can tell you, we must be the luckiest people in North Devon, all four of us.”

The Helicopter had been sent to Bideford to look for a person in the river, however, no-one was found and it was believed that a log floating in the river may have been mistaken for a body. This also meant there were plenty of eyewitnesses to the crash and police officers who were searching for the man on the river bank were able to help the crew of the helicopter back to dry land…

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The fisherman who eye-witnessed the crash, Mr. Roger Davey, of Marland Terrace, Bideford, said: “After the flash the helicopter turned over and went straight into the river.”

The four Bideford schoolboys – Paul Spearman, Norman Raymont, Terry Cudmore, and Mervyn Symons – watched from the bank as Mr. Davey, with Constable Jack Lane and Det.-Consable Peter Ingram, who were helping with the “man in the river” search, raced into the Torridge…

Constable Lane, deep in the water and fully clothed, grabbed two of the crew who were floating in their Mae Wests. Another, after inflating the helicopter dinghy, was pulled ashore, and the fourth reached the river bank unaided.

The accident also, unsurprisingly, caused a blackout in Bideford…

As it snapped, the cable, carrying power from an East-the-Water substation to Clovelly, caused a blackout in that area which lasted for 45 minutes before an alternative supply could be laid on. Some parts of Bideford lost their lights only briefly, and Bideford Town Hall, where the council were in session, was one of the places plunged into darkness.

A follow-up article about the helicopter appeared a week later…

Divers help to raise crashed helicopter

IMG_1291 (3)The ripped and battered remains of the helicopter which crashed into the Torridge last week is to be taken to the R.A.F.’s maintenance command…Work on salvaging the wreckage started on Friday and by Saturday the remains were back at R.A.F. Chivenor. The principal part of the operation was performed by an Instow R.E.M.E. unit, led by Major D.F. Dudbridge. Four soldiers, five civilians, and two shallow-water divers were engaged. They were helped by an R.A.F. salvage unit from Pembroke Docks. The full extent of the damage is not yet determined. An inquiry was held on Monday.

The articles were taken from the North Devon Journal-Herald 23rd & 30th September 1965 held in our collections. We also have an RAF Chivenor Collection in our Document collection. For more information read our Chivenor and North Devon Journal posts or visit our website.

…Barum Athena

The North Devon Journal Archive

The largest collection we hold by far is the archive of the local newspaper the North Devon Journal. We hold some 133 volumes of the original newspapers which cover over 120 years of news and events in the North Devon area.

North Devon Journal

The Journal was first published in July 1824 and we hold the first full year in hard copy – the only known copy left in the country. We then have a complete run of the newspapers from 1853-1980. We also hold copies of the newspapers on microfilm from 1824-1988 which are available in the public area alongside the more current films which the local studies library look after.

We also hold 29 volumes of North Devon Herald newspapers which was a rival newspaper set up in 1870 and was merged with the Journal in 1941 to become the North Devon Journal-Herald. Some of these copies are the only ones known to have survived.

Journals in Stack

Bound volumes of the North Devon Journal on our shelves. Many of them are now too fragile to handle and so microfilm substitues are used so we can protect the originals for as long as possible.

 

In the 1980s a project under the auspices of the Manpower Service Commission saw a group of people index the newspapers by hand and create a subject index covering the years 1824/25 and 1853-1895. A surname index was later created by one of the librarians using the original index. While the index has been superseded by the online version of the newspapers, the subject and name index is still useful for finding articles within the newspapers by subject, parish and name.

North Devon Journal Index

More recently volunteers and staff have produced a separate index to the Birth, Marriage and Death notices in the Journal and we now have indexes covering the years 1824-1857, 1868-1876 & 1880-1949. The index is particularly useful when searching for elusive ancestors and possible reports for marriages and funerals which can provide a mine of information on both the person and their family.

The largest section of the archive is the images collection. We hold thousands of glass and film negatives from the Journal which provides a unique and fascinating window on the North Devon area. The Journal started publishing images in its pages in the early part of the 20th Century and used a local photographer to supply them. By the 1940s and 50s they were commonplace and the Journal had its own photographers.

The glass negative collection was given to us in 1983 and contains 5,774 negatives covering the years 1946-1959. In 2011 a grant from the Bideford Bridge Trust allowed us to have them digitsed. These images can be searched and viewed – in a low resolution format – on our online images and NDJ catalogues.

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When the Journal moved from its old premises in Barnstaple High Street to Roundswell in the mid 2000s we were given thousands of film negatives covering the year 1963 – 2003. Further grants from the Bideford Bridge Trust allowed us to digitse all of the 1960s and 70s negatives and most of the 1980s and early 1990s negatives. In 2012 we released 2,545 images from the 1960s collection onto the catalogues and we are still in the process of indexing the 4,678 images from the 1970s. We also have some 11,346 individual images covering the 1980s waiting to be indexed and 3,633 images from 1990-1992 awaiting indexing!

In total we have some 27,885 digitised images as part of the North Devon Journal image collection with thousands more waiting to be done as part of a massive future project.

The negatives and digitised copies are all store in date order allowing us to search them by date even without a full index.

Find Out More:

You can find out more about the history of the North Devon Journal by reading our Brief History of the North Devon Journal post

Discover the images we hold via our online catalogue

Visit us to see the microfilm copies for free.

…Barum Athena

 

Chivenor & the Torrey Canyon

Today marks the 50th anniversary of RAF Chivenor’s involvement in the effort to prevent the oil pouring out of the stricken tanker, Torrey Canyon, drifting to land. In the days leading up to the Torrey Canyon’s grounding the local newspapers reported on several vessels being caught out in the rough seas and holes being punched in sea walls.

On the 18th March 1967 the Torrey Canyon ran aground near the Seven Stones off the Isles of Scilly after trying to take a short cut. The stranded ship then started to leak it’s 120,000 ton cargo of oil into the sea causing an environmental disaster.

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The editor of the North Devon Journal-Herald called it a nightmare as the councils of North Devon made plans to deal with any oil which came their way. The coastguards based at Hartland started an around-the-clock vigil looking for any sign that the oil may be heading for the North Devon coast.

On Tuesday 28th March some 26 Hawker Hunter jets from R.A.F. Chivenor were scrambled to help in a plan to sink the Torrey Canyon and deal with the oil by setting it alight. The Royal Navy had already bombed the stricken ship itself to set it alight and sink it, the jets from Chivenor were tasked with dropping 5,200 gallons of fuel on the tanker and surrounding area in a bid to keep the flames burning and burn off any oil in the area.

By the time the first pilots reached Hartland Point, they could see the flames from the Torrey Canyon in the distance. There were dozens of light aircraft and helicopters in the area around the ship, meaning their mission was in the full glare of the public eye.

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The hunters dropped their load on the already burning oil, Squadron Leader Peter Martin told the Journal-Herald “The smoke was fantastic. When we arrived it was rising to about five miles high and then leveling off. Our fuel attack seemed to be having its effect and the sea all around the tanker was on fire. But it did not spread to the oil slick further out to sea.”

On the way back from their mission they looked out for any signs the oil may be heading to the North Devon coast, but thankfully there was little or none past Newquay.

By the beginning of April the worst fears of the North Devon councils were eased as the weather station at Chivenor confirmed there had been a change in wind direction which pushed the oil away from the coast.

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The Torrey Canyon disaster was the first major oil spill from one of the new breed of oil tankers and changed the way the ships were regulated and the way in which oil was cleared up after such an incident. In a bid to return the beaches back to normal as quickly as possible before the tourist season started in earnest, detergent was used to clean the beaches in Cornwall. This, however, caused more damage to the local ecology than the oil itself. The beaches which were treated with detergent took over ten years to recover, whilst those which had the oil scraped off and/or were left just as they were to allow the oil to break down naturally took only 2 to 3 years to recover.

The councils of North Devon were prepared to use a combination of detergent in the sea to disperse the oil before it hit land and booms across harbours and river estuaries to prevent the oil from causing damage to both the local environment and the tourist trade the area depended upon. It must have come as a great relief when the wind changed, driving the oil away from North Devon.

The oil affected beaches all along the Cornish peninsula, northern France, the Islands of Scilly, Guernsey and even reached as far as Spain. There is still a reminder of the disaster in Guernsey where a quarry was used as holding tank for the oil that was cleared up from around their shores. The oil was still there in the early 2000s when attempts were made to break down the oil. Whilst it was a partial success, the oil which remains still acts as a lasting reminder of the disaster which has changed the way we deal with oil spills and inspired a generation of environmentalists.

You can find out more about the role played by RAF Chivenor and the impact the disaster had on the local area by looking through our Chivenor Collection and reading the articles published in the North Devon Journal at the time. Details of both can be found on our website.

…Barum Athena

Behind the Scenes…Shelving Project part two

Monday was the big day for the shelving project as the installers arrived with the new shelving early in the morning.

By mid morning one side was completed and the other under way and looking very smart and by lunchtime it was all done!

All that was left for us to do was to clean the new shelving down and fill it with our document and newspaper collections.

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It took a team of four to put everything onto the new shelves on Tuesday and the result was well worth it.

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Our newspapers can now lie flat on their shelves, and the documents boxes are no longer piled on top of each other. There was also space for us to place the RAF Chivenor Collection onto individual shelves rather than storing them in boxes which were too large and heavy for one person to handle. This means the collection is now more accessible to both staff and users.

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The work to improve the way we take care of our archival collections doesn’t stop with the shelving project. We can now start to plan and carry out a programme of replacing the old boxes with new archival ones, reducing the weight of the boxes (some of which are rather heavy!) and ensuring they items are just generally better stored. While we repackage the collections we will also be able to assess which items are in need of some tlc by conservationists and if there are any items which need more specialist storage.

Part of our Lethaby Collection is already in archive boxes and we hope the rest will be stored in archive boxes in the near future (Lethaby was a prolific writer and some of his boxes are amongst the heaviest on our shelves!)

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This post wouldn’t be complete without a few before and after pictures side by side to really appreciate the changes, nor would it be complete without thanking those who were involved with the project. The staff of Rackline who provided the shelving , CDL Southwest our contractors who took away our old shelving and laid the groundwork for the new shelves, and last but not least, a huge thank you to the staff and volunteers who helped to move all the collections and newspapers.

…Barum Athena

 

Behind the Scenes…Shelving Project part one: It’ll get worse before it gets better

If you’ve been following us on social media you will have seen that we are closed to the public for a fortnight while we carry out some essential work in our stack.

For the last 29 years, our North Devon Journal newspapers have sat on the shelving unit which was built for us before we moved in. Over the years, however, the newspapers have shown signs of deterioration due to the conditions in which they were being kept and the document shelves surrounding them have become full.

So, over our closure period this year we are taking out the old, outdated shelving and replacing it with new archival shelving which will enable us to look after the items in our care much better.

Before we get started here are a few before images of the document area…

Before we could do anything, we had to move everything off the shelves and into other spaces within our stack. It took four of us half a day to move everything out of harm’s way and dismantle all the old metal shelving.

The following day, contractors came in to remove the old wooden storage unit which had housed the newspapers and discover what lurked behind it! This is the it’ll get worse before it gets better point of the project…

If you’re wondering what we did with all the newspapers and document boxes, they’ve been stored in the aisles between the book shelves!

The rest of this week has seen the floor and wall sorted out ready for our new shelving to arrive and be installed on Monday. Then the task of filling the new shelves can begin, visit us next week to find out how we get on….

…Barum Athena

A Brief History of the North Devon Journal

North Devon Journal

First published in 1824 the North Devon Journal covers the general North Devon area. Established by John Avery, a bookseller who was a prominent liberal and Methodist in Barnstaple it had a mixture of local news and items taken from the national papers of the time. Spread over 4 pages each containing 7 columns, part of the paper was printed in Exeter by Thomas Besley before coming up to Barnstaple where the rest of it was printed in John Avery’s premises in Joy St.

In 1826 John Avery took on two apprentices John Gould Hayman and his son, William. By 1835 John had handed the paper to William who moved the business into the High Street a year later and in 1838 the original partnership between Avery and Besley was dissolved allowing the paper to be printed solely in Barnstaple.

In 1849 William Avery increased the size of the paper to 8 pages with 5 columns and purchased a new printing machine which he invited his readers to see in action! In 1852 William sold the paper to John Gould Hayman and Henry Petter and moved to Bristol. The new partnership lasted for three years before Petter sold his share to Hayman and went on to co-found Shapland and Petter.

1870 saw the publication of the North Devon Herald, the Journal’s only real rival. The Journal had always been a more liberal newspaper and the Herald was its conservative opposite. In 1871 Hayman persuaded William Avery (who had become bankrupt twice in the intervening years) to return to the Journal and he stayed until 1880 when he retired. Hayman followed Avery into retirement in 1885.

During the late 19th Century successive editors also had books published at the Journal offices these included Hayman’s Methodism in North Devon, Hugh Wesley Strong’s Industries of North Devon and William Frederick Gardiner’s Barnstaple 1837-1897 all of which are standard works of reference on the area today.

The first half of the 20th Century saw the greatest changes at the Journal. New printing machines, printer’s strikes, photographs and war all saw changes to the newspaper. The greatest change came during the Second World War when both the Journal and Herald were brought by Philip Inman who merged the two old rivals in 1941 to become the North Devon Journal-Herald.

Despite the introduction of free papers in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Journal’s readership has steadily increased and in 1986 changed size again from broadsheet to tabloid and its name back to the North Devon Journal. 1999 saw the newspaper go online via northdevonjournal.co.uk and it continues to be published weekly nearly 200 years after its first edition.

Welcome to 2017

With a new year come new challenges and changes for the North Devon Athenaeum. Last year the way we work with the North Devon Record Office changed as did the public area we share with them. This year will hopefully see some exciting changes behind the scenes.

We will be closed in early February to enable us to replace some of our outdated shelving which houses our document collections and the North Devon Journal archive. Whilst the area we will be working in may be small the task will be a big one. All of our document collections and newspapers will need to be moved, the old shelving taken out and new archive standard shelving installed. We will then need to move the collections to their new home. The project will enable us to take better care of our collections and may even give a little extra space for new items!

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As the focus of this year will be on our document collections and their future we will take the opportunity to explore some of the rich collections and the gems they contain starting with our William Richard Lethaby collection.

We’ll also be looking at more stories from the First World War and interesting articles from the North Devon Journal and North Devon Herald as well as discovering more items from our shelves. It will be another interesting year for us…

…Barum Athena